Achieve safe nurse staffing in all settings to ensure health and optimize the quality of care. Advocate for increased support to nursing degree programs to promote diverse workforce development. Ensure equitable access to health services so that all people can attain their highest level of health and receive the right care from the appropriate provider, in the right place, at an aﬀordable cost.
May 23, 2023
2023 Safe Staffing Bill (SB5236) headed for passage after massive advocacy efforts for safe staffing in 2022 and 2023 legislative sessions and intense negotiations and revisions.
WSNA President Lynnette Vehrs served on the state’s Universal Health Care Work Group and testified for SB 5399 during the 2021 state legislative session. The bill created a Universal Healthcare Commission to help establish a universal system of healthcare for all residents.
Partnered with the Department of Health to feature trusted nurses on how to stay safe during the pandemic as part of a series of public service announcements.
Filed patient safety complaints: Degraded mattresses and unexpected neonatal death resulted in an immediate jeopardy finding that required the facility to address the problem to continue operations.
The hard-fought safe-staffing bill (SB 5236) was signed into law April 20 by Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee.
The bill closes many of the loopholes and weaknesses in existing law and moves patient safety and the working conditions of nurses and other healthcare workers to the forefront; it represents significant progress toward the goal of safe staffing.
For the bill to pass, language requiring ratios was dropped. However, the bill includes much stronger enforcement of staffing plans developed by staffing committees, eliminates CEO veto power over those plans, and convenes an Advisory Committee including representatives of nurses, other healthcare workers, hospitals, and others, and staffed by the Department of Labor & Industries and the Department of Health. Substantial fines are included for violations.
The bill passed out of the Senate after a week of 12-hour sessions with the Washington State Hospital Association, the Department of Health, and the Department of Labor and Industries before going to the House.
This victory was fueled by our members, who posted selfies with placards supporting safe staffing, signed in “pro” on our priority bills, wrote to and met with legislators, and shared their stories of working under short-staffing conditions.
WSNA galvanized every resource possible to push forward safe staffing standards in the state legislature in 2022 and 2023. We joined forces with SEIU1199NW and UFCW3000 as the Washington Safe + Healthy Coalition, which collectively represents 75,000 healthcare workers.
Our government affairs team (Katharine Weiss and Jessica Hauffe) met with stakeholders to draft the bill and strategize how to get it passed, organized nurses for Lobby Day and hearings, held grueling meetings with the Washington State Hospital Association to find common ground, and issued continual updates.
Our leadership (Executive Director David Keepnews) held key meetings with stakeholders and was there every step of the way.
Our labor relations team (Labor Director Jayson Dick and the 21 nurse representatives and organizers) rallied nurses to send their support to legislators and get their friends and family to support the bill as well. On Feb. 16, 2023, the day the bill was being heard in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, 5,700 people had signed in their support. Just 990 opposed.
Our communications team (Marketing and Communications Director Ruth Schubert, Bobbi Nodell, Matt Vivion, Ben Tilden, and Joline Railey) handled daily press requests, trained nurses on speaking to the media, found a WSNA member to speak to every reporter who requested an interview on safe staffing, posted news updates, created videos of nurses in support of safe staffing, and spread the news on social media.
WSNA’s Legislative & Health Policy Council, chaired by Erin Allison, met weekly to provide leadership and direction to our legislative efforts.
Every year, WSNA holds a Lobby Day with members so they can meet with legislators on their priorities — a wonderful way of getting nurses’ voices heard.
In 2023, more than 82 members and staff held 100 meetings with state legislators and legislative staff on Feb. 2. They discussed safe staffing and other key priorities, such as legislation allowing nurses access to workers compensation for their PTSD without having to pinpoint their trauma to a specific event. This was the first in-person Lobby Day since 2020.
In 2023, WSNA posted more than 39 photos of nurses from local units across the state holding safe staffing placards in photo galleries on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The galleries had a combined count of 47,140 impressions (views) and 3,619 engagements (likes, shares, comments, etc.). We also posted a series of six videos of nurses sharing safe staffing stories at Lobby Day. The videos had a combined 54,546 impressions and 3,238 engagements.